Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
August 2004

Biographies of Prominent Quebec and Canadian

Historical Figures

Stephen Butler Leacock




Damien-Claude Bélanger,

Department of History,

McGill University


Political economist, humorist, short-story writer, and historian, was born at Swanmore, England. He was educated at Upper Canada College, at the University of Toronto, and at the University of Chicago. Leacock arrived in Canada at an early age and settled with his family in the Lake Simcoe district of Ontario. In 1889 he became a master at Upper Canada College. He left this position in 1898 to pursue doctoral studies in political economy at the University of Chicago. Upon graduation, he returned to Canada and was appointed lecturer in economics and political science at Montreal's McGill University. In 1907 with the active encouragement of Canadian Governor-General Lord Grey, he embarked on a triumphant and lucrative lecture tour of the British Empire to promote imperial unity. A year later, he was named professor of political science at McGill and head of the department, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1936. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1910 and received a number of honorary degrees over his long and distinguished career. A world-renowned humorist, Leacock's numerous satirical sketches were widely read in the Anglo-American world. However, his literary success in the United States did not prevent him from being a forceful critic of American civilization. His Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914) presented a sharply satirical portrait of urban American wealth. A ardent imperialist, Leacock actively supported the Conservative Party during the 1911 federal election campaign, and played a modest role in defeating the governing Liberals and the proposed reciprocal trade agreement with the United States. A versatile and prolific author and an influential thinker, Stephen Leacock was perhaps the greatest English Canadian intellectual of his generation.





© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College